by Rosemary Fifield
What is commonly referred to by four letters, has donated over $123,000 to improve the quality of life in the Upper Valley, and owes its success to the enthusiastic support of Co-op members and super-dedicated Co-op employees?
While the most visible charitable giving program at the Co-op these days is Pennies for Change, Co-op members and employees have also been instrumental in creating and expanding the Hanover Cooperative Community Fund (HCCF), an endowment fund that has been giving back to local non-profits and community projects since 2004.
HCCF started nineteen years ago with a seed investment of $5,000. Today it has grown to $449,000 thanks to donations from Co-op members and annual fundraising events organized by Co-op employees. In the early years, many members donated their patronage refund checks, and employees staged walkathons and raffles. Some Co-op managers even braved the icy waters of a Producers Fair dunk tank to raise money!
HCCF’s endowment is managed by Twin Pines Cooperative Foundation (TPCF), a collaboration of 45 cooperative community funds across the country. TPCF invests our money in regional development services such as New Hampshire Community Loan Fund and the Cooperative Fund of New England, thereby ensuring that our dollars contribute primarily to development in our own area.
Interest earned is made available to HCCF each year for donation to local organizations. The HCCF Advisory Committee, made up of Co-op member-owners, employees, and members of the board of directors, is responsible for distributing the funds with board approval.
Community Project Grants and the Gerstenberger Scholarship
With the success of Pennies for Change, the HCCF Advisory Committee has taken the opportunity to focus on specific projects rather than simply contributing to the general funds of local non-profits. In the past two years alone, HCCF has given money to carefully chosen community projects located in Hartford, Woodstock, Topsham, and Canaan, as well as to COVER Ramps & Roof Campaign, Green Mountain Children’s Center, the Upper Valley Haven, the Clara Martin Center, West Central Behavioral Health, and Twin Pines Housing.
The committee also established the Gerstenberger Scholarship for Cooperative Education, named in honor of the Co-op’s long-serving general managers, Harry and Arthur Gerstenberger, and its first education director, Sally Gerstenberger. To date, the Gerstenberger Scholarship has been awarded to New Hampshire Resident-Owned Communities (2017/2018) and Norwich resident Melissa Scanlon (2018).
You Can Make a Difference
For the past several years, the primary fundraiser for HCCF has been a golf tournament coordinated by Co-op employees and enthusiastically supported by many Co-op vendors. This year, new ideas are brewing among staff as we seek to raise Co-op member awareness of this important fund.
Growing the HCCF endowment a little more each year means a steady increase in the fund’s ability to contribute to our members’ communities. We look forward to enhancing the fund’s visibility and its impact, and we hope you will join us in this worthwhile effort. Watch for more information on upcoming member events in future newsletters!